Delhi, India’s capital territory, is a massive metropolitan area in the country’s north. In Old Delhi, a neighborhood dating to the 1600s, stands the imposing Mughal-era Red Fort, a symbol of India, and the sprawling Jama Masjid mosque, whose courtyard accommodates 25,000 people. Nearby is Chandni Chowk, a vibrant bazaar filled with food carts, sweets shops and spice stalls.
The Rajpath, a formal boulevard in the New Delhi government district, connects the India Gate war memorial and the massive presidential palace Rashtrapati Bhavan. Other significant sites include Lodi Gardens, a park featuring monumental tombs and acres of greenery; Mughal emperor Humayun’s tomb, a precursor of the Taj Mahal; Qutub Minar, a medieval brick minaret; and the flower-shaped Lotus Temple, a Bahá’í house of worship. Delhi also has a strong nightclub scene as well as many prominent museums, including ones dedicated to Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru, leaders of Indian independence.
Red Fort, also called Lal Qalʿah, also spelled Lal Kila or Lal Qila, Mughal fort in Old Delhi, India. It was built by Shah Jahān in the mid-17th century and remains a major tourist attraction. The fort was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2007.
The fort’s massive red sandstone walls, which stand 75 feet (23 metres) high, enclose a complex of palaces and entertainment halls, projecting balconies, baths and indoor canals, and geometrical gardens, as well as an ornate mosque. Among the most famous structures of the complex are the Hall of Public Audience (Diwan-i-Am), which has 60 red sandstone pillars supporting a flat roof, and the Hall of Private Audience (Diwan-i-Khas), which is smaller, with a pavilion of white marble.
An earlier red fort had been built in Old Delhi in the 11th century by the Tomara king Anangapala. The Quṭb Mosque now stands on the site.
Qutab Minar is a soaring, 73 m-high tower of victory, built in 1193 by Qutab-ud-din Aibak immediately after the defeat of Delhi’s last Hindu kingdom. The tower has five distinct storeys, each marked by a projecting balcony and tapers from a 15 m diameter at the base to just 2.5 m at the top. The first three storeys are made of red sandstone; the fourth and fifth storeys are of marble and sandstone. At the foot of the tower is the Quwwat-ul-Islam Mosque, the first mosque to be built in India. An inscription over its eastern gate provocatively informs that it was built with material obtained from demolishing ’27 Hindu temples’. A 7 m-high iron pillar stands in the courtyard of the mosque. It is said that if you can encircle it with your hands while standing with your back to it your wish will be fulfilled.
The origins of Qutab Minar are shrouded in controversy. Some believe it was erected as a tower of victory to signify the beginning of the Muslim rule in India. Others say it served as a minaret to the muezzins to call the faithful to prayer.
No one can, however, dispute that the tower is not only one of the finest monuments in India, but also in the world. Qutab-ud-din Aibak, the first Muslim ruler of Delhi, commenced the construction of the Qutab Minar in 1200 AD, but could only finish the basement. His successor, Iltutmush, added three more storeys, and in 1368, Firoz Shah Tughlak constructed the fifth and the last storey.
The development of architectural styles from Aibak to Tughlak is quite evident in the minar. The relief work and even the materials used for construction differ. The 238 feet Qutab Minar is 47 feet at the base and tapers to nine feet at the apex. The tower is ornamented by bands of inscriptions and by four projecting balconies supported by elaborately decorated brackets. Even though in ruins, the Quwwat Ui Islam (Light of Islam) Mosque in the Qutab complex is one of the most magnificent structures in the world. Qutab-ud-din Aibak started its construction in 1193 and the mosque was completed in 1197.
Iltutmush in 1230 and Alla-ud-din Khilji in 1315 made additions to the building. The main mosque comprises of an inner and outer courtyard,decorated with shafts and surrounded by piller. Most of these shafts are from the 27 Hindu temples, which were plundered to construct the mosque. It is, therefore, not surprising that the Muslim mosque has typical Hindu ornamentation. Close to the mosque is one of Delhi’s most curious antiques, the Iron Pillar.
India Gate, official name Delhi Memorial, originally called All-India War Memorial, monumental sandstone arch in New Delhi, dedicated to the troops of British India who died in wars fought between 1914 and 1919. India Gate, which is located at the eastern end of the Rajpath (formerly called the Kingsway), is about 138 feet (42 metres) in height.
India Gate is one of many British monuments built by order of the Imperial War Graves Commission (later renamed Commonwealth War Graves Commission). The architect was Sir Edwin Lutyens, an Englishman who designed numerous other war memorials and was also the principal planner of New Delhi. The cornerstone was laid in 1921 by the duke of Connaught, third son of Queen Victoria. Construction of the All-India War Memorial, as it was originally known, continued until 1931, the year of the formal dedication of New Delhi as the capital of India.
Lutyens declined to incorporate pointed arches or other Asian motifs in his design but strove instead for classical simplicity. The result is often described as similar in appearance to the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. On the rooftop above the archway is a broad shallow domed bowl that was intended to be filled with flaming oil on ceremonial occasions. No fires have been set on the rooftop in recent years, but four eternal flames are now sheltered at the base of the structure. The flames demarcate the Amar Jawan Jyoti, a small monument that has served as India’s tomb of the unknown soldier since 1971.
This great mosque of Old Delhi is the largest in India, with a courtyard capable of holding 25,000 devotees. It was begun in 1644 and ended up being the final architectural extravagance of Shah Jahan, the Mughal emperor who built the Taj Mahal and the Red Fort.
The highly decorative mosque has three great gates, four towers and two 40 m-high minarets constructed of strips of red sandstone and
white marble. Travellers can hire robes at the northern gate. This may be the only time you get to dress like a local without feeling like an outsider so make the most of it.
Old Delhi is a walled part of New Delhi, founded by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan in 1639 and originally named Shahjahanabad. It remained the capital of the Mughals until the end of the Mughal dynasty and was later rechristened Old Delhi by the British. It offers spectacular pieces of architecture, a mouthwatering variety of food, and a living, breathing piece of history.